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NA-55 and NA-56 of Rawalpindi: stiff competition expected between PML-N, PTI

Rawalpindi, considered to be the stronghold of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), is bracing for a change in the upcoming general elections mainly because Jammat-i-Islamai (JKI) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) will participate in the May 11 elections unlike 2008.

Out of the total seven National Assembly and 14 provincial assembly constituencies of Rawalpindi, NA-55 and NA-56 are two important constituencies, where many heavyweights of several political parties would contest the May 11 general elections. NA-55 is the home constituency of AML chief Sheikh Rashid Ahmad, from where he faced humiliating defeat at the hands of PML-N candidates Makhdoom Javed Hashmi (the then PML-N leader) in 2008 and Malik Shakeel Awan (PML-N) in February 2010 bye-elections. PML-N is unlikely to have an easy sail this time as PTI fully supporting Sheikh Rashid as well as Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) contesting the seat.

In 2008 general elections, PML-N's Javed Hashmi won from the constituency by securing 76,980 votes while PPP's Malik Aamer Fida Paracha was the runner up who bagged 37,397 votes and Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad who contested on PML-Q ticket remained third by securing 15,780 votes. Hashmi who had won from four different constituencies left the seat vacant and PML-N's Haji Pervaiz Khan clinched the seat with 25,237 votes in the bye-elections in which Sheikh Rashid did not participate.

The seat once again fell vacant after resignation of Haji Pervaiz Khan following an examination scam and in the subsequent by-polls in 2010 PML-N Malik Shakil Awan emerged as winner with a big margin by securing 63,888 votes while Sheikh Rashid Ahmad got 42,000 votes.

In 2002 general elections, Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad who contested as independent candidate, won from the constituency by securing 40649 votes while Sardar Muhammad Tariq of PML-N was the runner up who bagged 14,405 votes and Agha Riaz-ul-Islam of PPP got 2,885 votes.

However, this time around the situation is completely different with both PTI and JI taking active part in the upcoming general elections. PML-N once again has fielded Malik Shakeel Awan to try his luck against Sheikh Rashid Ahmad from the same constituency while JI Mohammad Hanif Chaudhry, PPP's Chaudhry Iftikhar Ahmad and lawyers' movement leader Ali Ahmed Kurd [independent] are also in the race.

The real battle, according to analysts, is expected between PML-N Shakeel Awan and AML chief Sheikh Rashid Ahmad with PTI support. In 2010 by-polls PPP was supporting Sheikh Rashid Ahmad against the PML-N, while this time PPP has awarded its ticket to Chaudhry Iftikhar Ahmad from the same constituency. However, Sheikh Rashid will enjoy PTI support. PML-N which was enjoying JI support in last election, has fielded its own candidate for 2013 elections, which will deprive the PML-N's candidate of its support.

NA-55 comprises of two provincial seats including PP-11 and PP-12. Both the seats were won by PML-N in 2008 general elections. On PP-11, PML-N has again awarded its ticket to former MPA Ziaullah Shah who will face PPP's Khalid Nawaz Bhobi, JI's Syed Kalim Gilani and PTI's Raja Rashid Hafeez. .However, the PML-N candidate is forecast to once again emerge victorious. From PP-12, PML-N has fielded its Rawalpindi chapter president Sardar Nasim who will face PPP's Babar Khan Jadoon, PTI's Ejaz Khan Jazzi and JI's Mohammad Hanif Chaudhry.

NA-56 is another important constituency where PTI chief Imran Khan will contest for the first time. Imran will face PML-N's heavyweight Mohammad Hanif Abbasi who had won from the constituency in 2008 general elections. PPP has awarded its ticket to Raja Asrar Abbasi while JI's candidate Raza Ahmad Shah is also trying his luck.

Analysts anticipate a neck-and-neck competition between PTI chief Imran Khan and PML-N's candidate Hanif Abbasi. Sheikh Rashid Ahmad withdrew his candidature in favour of Imran Khan leaving the field open for PTI and PML-N. Sources within the PTI claimed that Imran Khan will win from the constituency with a thumping majority against the two-time winner Hanif Abbasi - in 2008 on PML-N ticket while in 2002 on JI under the MMA ticket.

This time the contest will also be interesting as Abbasi with a JI background will not enjoy its support in May 11 general elections after JI fielded its own candidate in the constituency.

However, PML-N sources claimed that Abbassi will once again win from the constituency on the basis of performance and the mega development projects including Rawalpindi Institute of Cardiology, Shahbaz Sharif Flyover on sixth road and other projects in the area. NA-56 has also two provincial seats including PP-13 and PP-14, both were won by the PML-N in the previous general elections. This time a tough competition is expected on both the constituencies due to the growing popularity of PTI in the area coupled with its seats adjustment with AML.

On PP-13, PML-N has awarded its ticket to Ghulam Raza who will face PTI's Rawalpindi chapter president Arif Abbasi and PPP's Raja Shahid while JI has awarded its ticket to Syed Aziz Hamid. From PP-14, PML-N former MPA Raja Hanif Advocate who won from this constituency in 2008 will face PTI's Chaudhry Asghar, PPP's Raja Kamran and JI's Zubair Ahmad Khan. The real contest is expected between PML-N and PTI candidates on May 11 general elections. However, the election campaigns is formally going to be launched from today (Saturday) and the situation will become more clear with the passage of time.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2013


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